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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A socio-dialectology survey of the English spoken in Ottawa : a study of sociological and stylistic variation in Canadian English Woods, Howard B.


This study is a response to the long-standing need -within the field of Applied Linguistics for a "better understanding of General Canadian English and for a quantitative documentation of its usage. This dissertation presents an analysis of a sample of this national language as spoken "by persons whose mother tongue is English and who were born and raised in the city of Ottawa. The analysis demonstrates that the informants vary their speech patterns according to the linguistic tasks which they are asked to perform. Further, the analysis demonstrates that variations in usage are correlated to age, sex, And socio-economic status. An hour-long interview was conducted with one hundred informants by means of a questionnaire which was designed to elicit phonological, morphological, syntactic, semantic, and lexical responses while the informants were performing a number of language related tasks. Unlike several urban socio-dialectology surveys conducted recently, this survey analyses the speech characteristics of a broad range of the socio-economic structure from skid row through the middle classes to the lower upper class. It is thereby the first such survey dealing with Worth American English which includes the mainstream of society as well as the minority ethnic groups. Prior to presenting the extensive data and evaluative comments on the co-variation of stylistic and sociological variation of Canadian English usage, a number of background subjects are dealt with. First, a review and evaluation of previous dialectology studies is presented. Second, the background of Ottawa's settlement patterns and present situation is discussed. Third, the development of Canadian English is traced through time so that this national dialect can be placed in relation to other dialects of the English language family. This is followed by a detailed account of those characteristics which distinguish Canadian English from Northern American, its closest relative. The fourth subject dealt with is the methodology of the study itself. Chapter 5 presents an analysis of the co-variation of 27 phonological segments and sociological and stylistic parameters. Our data forcefully prove our hypothesis of phonological and stylistic co-variation, with 20 of the 27 items demonstrating variation directly related to the degree of formality of the task performed by the informant. Similarly, our data prove our hypothesis of phonological and socio-economic co-variation. In this case, 10 of the 27 items demonstrate ordered stratification. The upper classes use a much broader range of styles than do the lower classes. Our analysis also reveals important findings of sex and age differentiation in addition to a number of important phonological discoveries . Chapter 6 analyses the co-variation of grammatical, pronunciation, and vocabulary forms and sociological factors. The data demonstrate that 13 of 15 grammatical items, 25 of 48 pronunciation items, and 2 of 8 vocabulary items have clear and ordered socio-economic stratification. Prestige and stigmatized forms were designated according to usage patterns. These data also demonstrate sex and age differentiation; our female informants maintained the strongest class hierarchy, had the lowest frequency of stigmatized forms, and the highest frequency of prestige forms. Both Chapters 5 and 6 have a summary section which contains the important findings of their respective analyses. The Conclusion contains a summary of the significant findings and suggestions for future studies. Appendices A to G contain the questionnaire, the complete computer printout of the data, and tabular presentations of paralinguistic and attitudinal observations.

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